First Born

by Liza Porter
For Arcadia

When she woke crying in the night
Iíd lift her out of the crib
and hold on for dear life. Hers, mine, the whole worldís,
the darkness of the stone cabin
filled with the breath of all the other mothers
I knew held their babies
in the same way in the nightís silenceó
head on the crook of my arm, tiny mouth
sucking at my breast, new eyes glowing hunger fire,
all of us exhausted from the birthing
days or months before, all of us feeding
the bodies of the innocents, all of us madonnas.

I marveled at the sound of the creek
rushing behind the cabin and wondered if I could remember
how to swim. I heard the rocks
knock against each other on their way south,
the same way her father and I slammed each other
with cruel words, never finding the right ones
to ride upstream to freedom. I rocked
in a half-broken chair in the night, eyes closed,
our slow back and forth the only movement
in the room, while he slept on a bed in the corner
oblivious to all but his own dreams.

I wondered where weíd be
the next day or next year, my plans to leave
as newly formed as my daughterís fingers and toes,
our hazy future a specter hanging in the dark. Fall had come
and with it rain and more rain, they said the creek
might overflow its banks. I imagined the flood
like the blood of being born, saw the two of us lifted
out of the darkness in benevolent arms, and carried away
to smoother waters, where she could grow and I could breathe
slow and deliberate as new trees, and together
we would watch the sun rise, its golden fire
the torch that led us away from him, from there
toward a new life.

Good-Bye Again

by Liza Porter
Something is so right here. Yesterday
There was so much light I couldnít see.
But now itís the same and the scales
Have fallen to the ground. I am not
Trapped in dialogue with the dead. With you. Again.
The one departed. I have blown all the words
There are to blow, your skin now ashes,
Your bones chips of scorched soul. Hey,
Johnnie Ray, if I drink cheap beer behind
Your apartment building where others
Still shoot up and bleed, could I say this any better?
Oh, Johnnie, giver of parables and tales of
Waste, one in the long line of brothers
Pushing the sky before their time. Jail
Yarns are lost forever, except in a heart
As halted as a red stop sign. Gone.
Letís look at the difference between self-
Destruction and faith. The words
That mustíve tumbled out of your mouth
At last breath. At daybreak. Or sundown.
The middle of a desert day is just as good
A time to lay down at the feet of the
Animal with no name. The myth of death.
Do I do a disservice by crying one more time?
The church bells still ring on the quarter hour.
Their music calls to you, but
Itís too late. Six months in the red vein
Of a white eye, the pupil shrinks to nothing.
Your eye. Your dry eye.

© 2005 by Liza Porter. All rights reserved.

Liza Porterís poems have been published in Slipstream, The Montserrat Review, and her work is forthcoming in The Circle Magazine, The Gingko Tree Review, HazMat Review, Skidrow Penthouse and Telling Stories: Women Write the Southwest, an anthology due from University of Texas Press next year.